50 years later, a new Z-car

You likely saw our review recently about Motorbooks releasing Peter Evanow’s 50-year history of the Nissan Z sports coupe. Nissan, we’re here to say, has gone a long stride farther by publicly declaring its intentions to reinvent this pivotal sporting automobile from Japan. This week, Nissan rolled out its Z Proto design study, one of 10 proposed vehicles that the automaker plans to begin building over the next 20 months. Nissan has a history of doing these sort of multi-vehicle teases in the past; this one took place at the 33rd annual International Z Convention, which is being held this week in Franklin, Tennessee, Nissan’s current U.S. home. To say this is a proud heritage is an understatement: The original 240Z was a sweeping declaration that redefined Japanese cars when it was introduced in 1970. More than 1.35 million Zs have been sold since then, raced everywhere from Daytona to the Safari Rally in Africa, and campaigned by racing luminaries ranging from John Morton and Bob Sharp to Sharp’s longtime racing sidekick, P.L. Newman.

We can make a couple of immediate observations about the Z Proto. First, it will clearly continue the thematic purity of the original Z, a front-engine, rear-drive GT coupe with a longitudinal powertrain layout. Next, we’ll bet that the pearlescent yellow color scheme of the prototype makes it to the showrooms, given that it was an available shade on the first-generation car. The sharp, arrogant lines, especially up front, do more than just hint at what this car is going to deliver when it arrives for real. While full specifications will have to wait, the limited stats Nissan has released so far for the Z Proto indicated that it’s going to be a serious player that will have the Toyota Supra squarely in its crosshairs: Twin-turbo V-6 power, a standard six-speed manual transmission, and 255-/285-series tires on huge, aggressive 19-inch wheels. Given the timeline involved, this ought to be reasonably close to the final product. Among the other forthcoming Nissans being shown at the Z gathering are new generations of the Rogue, Sentra, and the coming all-electric Ariya crossover.

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